In the last twenty years, the traditional office environment has seen many trends and changes come and go due to increasing technological demand and the rise of the digital age. Here are just a few ways in which the office has changed in the last twenty years to suit the modern business and the busy employee.
The Death of the Cubicle.
Twenty years ago, if you walked into most offices you would be greeted with the sight of ten or more grey cubicles, each housing an office employee who was boxed in to avoid distraction from co-workers. Although this was originally seen as a post-modern idea to give employees more privacy than previous office styles (which were usually rows of desks), it was eventually viewed as a stereotypical office drone environment and decreased in popularity.
Nowadays, most offices have adopted a more open plan environment, with employees often sharing large desks arranged in a table form so that they can face each other and share ideas. This has come full circle from the distraction avoidance that the cubicle design was trying to achieve. The birth and ongoing development of the digital age has made us into more social beings, and the modern office reflects this in its design.
The rise of modern technology.
It’s no secret that in the last twenty years modern technology has evolved in leaps and bounds and office technology has been no exception. Twenty years ago, although office computers were commonplace, they were often huge desktop computers that remained on the employee’s desk at all times. Mobile phones were rare (and the ones that existed were bigger than the user’s head), and so office communication was often done via early email and landline phones.
Nowadays, the development of mobile technology has changed the office environment in a big way. The increased popularity and compact design of mobile phones and the invention of laptops means that more and more employees are able to work from remote locations or home. In fact, many employees are experiencing first-hand the rise of the ‘mobile office’ and have fully traded their desk space at work for the option of working purely from… wherever they want! The popularity of the laptop and the more recent development of the tablet means that employees can engage in conference calls, meetings, presentations and much more from any location that has internet access. For many workers, the working day does not end when they leave the office.
Mobile technology means that many employees choose to continue their duties at home in the evening. Is this a good thing? Or is mobile technology disrupting our work/life balance irreparably?
Changing what is in the office.
As mentioned above, many people believe that the development of mobile technology means that many workers bring the office home with them after hours. It is possibly for this reason that many companies have now adopted a more homely and pleasant environment in their offices. In Google’s new London office, employees can sit back and relax in plush seating areas or overlook stunning views of the city from the roof terrace. Mind Candy, a British entertainment company based in London, has turned its office into a play den, complete with picnic tables and inside trees and flowers.
Many modern employees believe that the more ‘traditional’ office environment (office cubicles, rows of desks etc.) can decrease creativity and stifle the enthusiasm of the employees. This negative impact can be responsible for huge decreases in productivity and, eventually, business profitability.
Global Communication and working hours.
Twenty years ago, the vast majority of office employees were employed on a regular 9-5 basis, often referred to as ‘office hours’. Nowadays, with the ability to communicate around the globe increasing hugely in the last twenty years, it is no wonder that office hours are changing to reflect the differences in the time zones around the world. Many offices are adopting much later shifts than the original 9-5 so that they can engage in conference calls with workers from different countries and increase their brand awareness to a global scale.
As the world is becoming a much smaller place due to developments in modern technology, the office has had to change to accommodate the changing needs of the business world.